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More than money: Counting poverty in multiple forms

Dhiraj Sharma's picture
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Consider two households that have the same level of consumption (or income) per person but they differ in the following ways. All the children in the first household go to school, while the children in the second household work to support the family. The first household obtains drinking water from a tap connected to the public distribution network, whereas the second household fetches water from a nearby stream. At night, the first home is illuminated with electricity, whereas the second home is dark. A lay person would easily recognize which of these two families is better off. Yet, traditional measures of household well-being would put the two households on par because conventionally, household well-being has been measured using consumption (or income).

Recognizing the incompleteness of the so called monetary measure of well-being, this year’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report proposes a multidimensional poverty measure. It adds deprivations in education (child school enrollment and adult school attainment) and access to basic infrastructure (drinking water, sanitation and electricity) to the consumption measure to construct a more complete picture of poverty. With this broader definition of poverty, many more people come into view as poor.

The figure shows the proportion of people in monetary and multidimensional poverty in the world and in each region circa 2013. The global poverty rate is 50 percent higher (18 percent versus 12 percent) when poverty in its multiple forms is considered. South Asia has made progress in reducing monetary poverty, but when deprivations in education and basic infrastructure dimensions are taken into account, the share of the population in poverty more than doubles. The poverty rate in Africa is the most worrying, with almost two out of three people in multidimensional poverty.


Submitted by Subramanian.I on

As per the graph the poverty rate in South Asia is shown as apprx 30% which I object to for Indian conditions that too in Tamilnadu a state in India.Most of the households in villages are self owned with latest facilities like TV,Laptop,Refrigerator,smartphones, motorcycle etc.A male unskilled labpr earns around Rs 500/per day and a female Rs 200/ per day and they are not available for farm work now in villages.For skilled labor like masons,carpenter,electrician they earn up to Rs 1000/day.Some old and disabled persons are not able to earn that much and Govt. is taking care of them by pension etc.overall the poverty position in Tamilnadu is well below 5% equal to developed countries.The first WB project in Tamilnadu was the Periyar Improvements Scheme a $40 million project way back in the 1980s which was implemented very successfully( I was a team member) and yielding very good results.very many thanks to WB. Further projects with WB are in progress after the initial success.Kudos to WB.

Submitted by Bill Blackman on

This is helpful to consider how people really live, rather than just monetary figures!

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